PTP! Let’s do this!

13912888_10153675854961384_3576400400912032462_nAs I write, I am trying to head out the door to attend one of the finest teaching programs I’ve ever experienced. Throughout the last year I have listened to 177 full length classes on the flash drive I brought home from last year’s Polishing the Pulpit. (http://polishingthepulpit.com) just while driving in my car. I’m spiritually richer just for the listening. I know more about the Bible and how to apply it. I have more teaching tools. I am glad I can listen in the  car after the gathering has dispersed. But to get to go and enjoy the fellowship of 4000 Christians while attending some of these lessons in person is a blessing in the vestibule of heaven, itself! 

The other night, while visiting the church in Jacksonville, Alabama I met a lady from the community who came also, to visit their Wednesday Bible study. When I met her, she related to me that someone in the community—someone to whom she had mentioned that she really wanted to know God’s will for her life—said “You should go over to the church of Christ. They have the best Bible studies over there.” Now I do not know who this person was. She was apparently not a member of the church. She had just become impressed with the reputation of Bible study that the Jacksonville church has. 

That was a breath of fresh air for me. God’s people should work hard to maintain that reputation. I’m sure I’ve heard at least a hundred times in my lifetime “The church of Christ used to have the reputation of being the people who knew the Bible. But that day, sadly, has passed.” Well, if it’s passed, I say, let’s bring it on back!

At Polishing the Pulpit, that’s the goal. You will start to believe that we can regain that reputation when you circulate through classes and connect in conversations  and go to the how-to sessions on everything from teaching tots to planning mission trips to food preservation for disaster outreach to learning some basics about the Bible languages. And the  fellowship at this great program!…It’s simply a foretaste of heaven. The children’s program alone is reason enough to make the trip with your family. They get to wander though a life-size New Testament village and soak in the accounts of that Book! I hope you will make plans now for next year, if you’re not traveling to Sevierville,Tennessee this weekend to attend,

I get to talk with ladies about the meek and quiet spirit of I Peter 3. I’m discussing this year the subtleties of the devil’s tactics to try and “trip up” Christian women. I’m simulating a study with a Mormon and kicking off a year of Deep Bible study for women. I’m over-the-top excited about that. I’m talking about some bad reasons to stay in an unfaithful church, some ways to use social media for Him… and more. I love this opportunity to teach. It makes me work and learn and study that blessed Book…Its meat (Hebrews 5:12), Its milk (I Peter 2:2), Its bread (John 6:58) and Its water (John 4:13,14).  But even more, I love the opportunity to learn.  I am just one tiny little teacher (well…you know what I mean) in a vast program of many teachers far more qualified than I am. So, for me, it’s all about soaking it up! At PTP, you learn quickly that, the more you know, the more there is to know. That’s why you keep coming back. And the best part is, you have 358 days in between PTPs to glorify Him with the applications you bring back from those seven days. It’s kind of like a spiritual gold rush for Christians…only  the gold is really there and you really do become richer. And you can take the gold home and invest it, and, slowly, you become richer and richer toward God. Let’s go do this!

What Paul Suffered so I Can Read the Last Will…(an Incomplete, but Compelling List)

  • Saint_Paul,_Rembrandt_van_Rijn_(and_Workshop?),_c._1657Tonight is the Digging Deep Podcast. Join us at 7 CST here: http://livestream.com/whcoc/for-women . It’ll be a discussion of the persecutor-turned-persecuted hero, Paul—the apostle, the missionary, the servant, the writer, the prisoner, the teacher, the mentor, the one with the thorn in the flesh. Surely you find yourself somewhere in those characterizations of this great man. He is relevant to me in so many ways. Of course, the chief relevance is that He was the great mind   and pen through which the Holy Spirit revealed a large portion of the last will and testament of Jesus Christ. That testament is the key to my inheritance in heaven. The study tonight is relevant!

So here is the list from Acts of the persecutions he faced. I’ve added his immediate reaction or response where applicable. Take a look at these days in the life of the spiritually rich and famous. Realize with me that you and I can be elite in the palace of the King of Kings, if we are willing to suffer for His name. He that is the greatest is servant of all. I read that in a Book somewhere. So here is the Acts account of Paul’s persecutions:

  1. Elymas, the sorcerer, withstood Paul and tried to “undo” his work (13:8).  Paul, full of the Spirit, rebuked him and blinded him,
  2. The Jews stirred up the people to persecute Paul and they expelled him and his companions from their coasts (13:50). They “shook the dust from their feet” and traveled on.
  3. The unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles to think evil things about Paul and his companions (14:2). They just kept speaking boldly and performing signs in the name of Jesus.
  4. Both Jews and Gentiles assaulted and attempted to stone them (14:5). They became aware of it and fled.
  5. Took time for and endured dissension and disputing about circumcision (15:2). Went to the elders in Jerusalem to seek counsel and a solution to the dispute. 
  6. Because Paul healed a girl who had a spirit of divination, those who were making money off of her affliction were angered. They took Paul and Silas to the magistrates where, as a multitude rose up against them, they were beaten with many stripes and placed in stocks in the inner prison (16:19-24). Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God in this jail. 
  7. Lewd fellows in Thessalonica assaulted the house where Paul was staying and demanded that Paul surrender to them (17:5). The brethren, protecting Paul and company, sent them away secretly.
  8. Thessalonians followed them and stirred up the people in Berea, the town to which they had escaped (17:13). The brethren sent Paul away again. 
  9. Philosophers in Athens mocked him and took him to authorities (17:18). Paul preached the great sermon on Mars Hill.
  10. That sermon resulted in more mocking (17:32). Paul left Athens.
  11. The Jews rejected his teaching in Corinth, blaspheming (18:6). Paul shook his clothes and told them that their blood would be on their heads. He said “I am clean” and determined to go to the Gentiles with the gospel.
  12. The Jews made insurrection against Paul in Achaia and brought him before the deputy, Gallio (18:12). Paul was ready to answer, but Gallio, frustrated with the Jews, would not hear the case.
  13. The Jews in the synagogue at Ephesus spoke evil of His teachings and “the Way” in front of the crowd (19:9). Paul separated the disciples and reasoned with them in the school of Tyrannus for two years.
  14. Demetrius, a silversmith in Ephesus, angry that Paul was hurting the Diana silver-image business, called together a craftsmen’s union and incited them to anger against Paul. Paul was ready to enter the chaotic arena and speak, but the Ephesian Christians, as well as some chief officers, persuaded him to stay out of that theatre. 
  15. The people of Ephesus cried out for two hours “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” to directly oppose and endanger Paul (19:34). When the rioting was over, Paul embraced the Christians and left for Macedonia.
  16. The Jews in Greece “laid wait” for Paul, obviously purposing his harm (20:3). Paul changed plans, avoiding their trap.
  17. Tears, temptations, and trials were involved in all of this service (20:19). Paul did not shrink from speaking the whole truth.
  18. Paul was told by the prophet that he would be bound and delivered to the Gentiles in Jerusalem (21:11). Paul responded that he was ready to be bound and die for the name of Jesus.
  19. Jews of Asia stirred up the people in the temple of Jerusalem who were listening to Paul to rioting so that the people were beating him. The chief captain took him and bound him with two chains (fulfilling the prophecy in #18). The soldiers carried him into the Roman castle for questioning because the crowd was violent against him (21:27-38). Paul gave a lengthy defense in which he told of his Jewish heritage and his conversion to Christianity. 
  20. At the close of this defense, the Jews cried out for him to be put to death. The chief captain commanded his scourging (23:22-25). Paul responded, by revealing to the centurion, who was about to beat him, that he, himself, was a Roman.
  21. Paul was brought to give his defense before Jews and Romans in Jerusalem (22:30). 
  22. Ananias, the high priest commanded that they hit him on the mouth (23:2). Paul, not aware that Ananias was the hight priest,  called Ananias a “whited wall”, accusing him of breaking the very law he was commissioned to uphold. 
  23. There was a great dissension and the chief captain was afraid the crowd would tear Paul in pieces, so he brought him, again, into the castle (23:10). The Lord stood by Paul, telling him that he would survive to teach in Rome.
  24. A group of Jews took a hunger vow, saying they would not eat till Paul was killed (23:12). Paul’s sister’s son revealed this plot to him and Paul got this word to the chief captain, who sent 200 soldiers with Paul to deliver him to Felix, the Roman governor in Caesarea.
  25. Paul stood before Felix and Tertullias, an orator, who painted Paul to be a leader of revolt among the Jews (24:1-9). Paul answered with the gospel and was committed to the keeping of a centurion.
  26. Felix left Paul in bonds till his term as governor was over and the Jews besought the new governor, Festus, to send Paul to Jerusalem, so that they could kill him on the way (24:27-25:3).
  27. Festus brought Paul before him for questioning as the Jews from Jerusalem accused  him (25:6,7). Paul appealed to Caesar.
  28. Festus mocked Paul, calling him a mad man (26:24). Paul defended the gospel saying “These things were not done in a corner.”
  29. Paul was sent in chains to Rome where he remained bound (28:20). Paul, from his Roman lodging (imprisonment in a house), taught many people the gospel (28:24-31). 

She Facebooked her Friends and said “Rejoice with Me!…

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…for I have found the piece which was lost!”

Several sisters have asked about the lost dress. Facebook can be a huge umbrella of encouragement even in the mundane.  I know life’s not all about finding Cindy Colley’s heirloom dress, of all things, but I was truly humbled and amazed that so many of you cheered us on as we searched for and found a little dress that I very much wanted to put on BabyG2 next September.  Hundreds of you (literally) and many that I’ve never met have been the sweetest sisters a woman could ever have. I love Facebook for giving your encouragement to me. 

The dress was deep in a closet at Hannah’s (my daughter’s) house. It was in a garment bag hiding behind her wedding dress, which was in the back of that closet in another very huge garment bag. The funny thing was, I had everyone looking for a pink box in which I’d originally wrapped that dress for the gender reveal two years ago…the gender reveal that turned out to be for a boy. Thus, the dress was never opened at the reveal. 

What I had forgotten was that the dress had been removed from the box and used as an illustration at a ladies day in Middle Tennessee a few months after that reveal…the very weekend, in fact, that Ezra was due. (Thus the reason it never got out of my car at my house….It just went straight to Hannah’s house and got hung in a closet there because hospital luggage is not conducive to dress preservation.) That’s just where Facebook became very helpful. You found out I was looking and three of you remembered the dress. You identified where you saw it and the garment bag in which it had left the church building at East Main. In turn, I told my son Caleb (via his Facebook page) to stop looking for a box and start looking for a garment bag. Truth be told, I don’t think he’d done a whole lot of looking for either. (He’s a good egg, though.) But Hannah, being the faithful Facebook follower that she is, immediately saw that post about looking for garment bags. She had moved all the hanging clothes in that closet more than once, laid them on the bed and searched the back of that closet for a box. But this time, she rushed home and actually looked through those clothes she’d been moving  back and forth. She looked for a black garment bag. She found the dress and tried to call me…twice. Unable to reach me, she called her Daddy, who got in the car and drove across town with photos on his phone to spread the cheer.

When he walked in the kitchen door in the middle of last Tuesday, I was surprised to see him. 

“What would you give a man…?” he began. 

“You found my dress??!!”

“I think so. But what would you give a man?…Is this the dress?” He offered his phone and a series of photos.

“You found my dress!!!!” 

“Yes and you should call your daughter on that phone that I don’t even know why I pay for.…She wants to hear from you.”

******************************************************

There are always lessons, of course. Here they are:

  1. If Facebook can find a lost dress, surely we can connect some dots and find some lost souls, too. Facebook is a more personal and encompassing kind of outreach than email or USPS. It’s the kind of networking in which you never know if a click that posts or comments may be the click that does click with some lost soul and opens a door to a relationship, a study, an invitation that could result in a saved soul.
  2. Facebook is a neutral commodity. You get to decide whether your use of it is for the Lord or for the devil. Now, finding a dress is not a work of the Lord. But encouraging each other, as Facebook friends did (and do regularly for me) through this medium, is a great way to get the most good out of something the devil loves to control.
  3. You’re never going to find what you’re looking for if you’re looking where it’s not. That dress was not in all those absurd places (like on top of way-up-there kitchen cabinet and in overflowing trunks where I would have never crushed that batiste and damp basement corners) where I was looking. Sometimes life is like that. We can’t find contentment. We look in all those hard-to-do absurd places instead of the obvious place where the “owner” of truth has put it in the first place. 
  4. You may be own, be picking up, carrying, and moving about the answer to all your dilemmas. But until you recognize that, open it up and really look inside, you won’t find what you’re looking for. Hannah did that with that garment bag. She moved it over and over as she looked other places, to no avail. That’s what we do with our Bibles. We lay them on the table beside our beds. We pick them back up and take them to worship. Sometimes we move them back and forth and back and forth without ever really opening and examining them. We move the book, but we don’t meditate on it, memorize it or mark it. There are many people who own a Bible but do not own truth. It’s very important that we show our kids the difference. The Bible is not a lucky amulet. It’s what’s inside that can bring us joy. But that joy exists for me only when what’s inside the book gets inside of me. Hannah had a garment bag that she was transferring mindlessly back and forth, while what was inside eluded us all. 
  5. Some people are so close to what they really want, but just not quite there. Jesus told a scribe as much in Mark 12:34. “You are not far from the kingdom,” Jesus said. I have many friends who are close to the kingdom. I hurt for them because, of  course, being close to the kingdom of God is not enough. Hannah was near that dress we were hunting each time we talked about it on the phone. It was sometimes right there in the same room with her. Close is not good enough. We have to give people the information they need to identify that for which they search. 
  6. Some news is so good, you want to personally deliver it. I love that about my husband. He loves to bring joy…not just to me, but to everyone in all circumstances. We have the very best news of all. When we understand the wretchedness of that from which the good news— the gospel—rescues people, we can’t be stopped. We are going to those people. We will move heaven and earth to reach them with the good news. In fact Heaven has already moved that they might have this good news. It’s up to us to make the move on earth. We simply must. We are going to tell them that we’ve found that for which they are searching. 

I’ll Have Both

Unknown-1I’ve heard all too often, recently, statements like “We need to quit talking about the specifics of doctrine and focus on the tragic problems those around us are facing,” or “I’m choosing to be part of this church that doesn’t always get it right about worship, but they get it right about love.” This set me to thinking about the many situations in which we convince ourselves we must choose between two commodities, when, in reality, the situations are not either/or scenarios.  The two commodities are not mutually exclusive and, often, they are both  required.  Just think about a few things that might fit into a list of non-exclusives. You’ll be richer if you know you can have both. 

  1. Meekness and backbone are not mutually exclusive (Numbers 12:3; Exodus 10:26).
  2. Rebuke and longsuffering are not mutually exclusive (II Timothy 4:2).
  3. Conviction and compassion are not mutually exclusive (I John 5:2-4).
  4. Sound teaching and kindness are not mutually exclusive (Ephesians 4:15).
  5. The accumulation of wealth and favor with God are not mutually exclusive (Gen. 13:2)
  6. Equality and submission are not mutually exclusive (Ephesians 5).
  7. Salvation by grace and salvation by works are not mutually exclusive (Ephesians 2:8; I Peter 3:21)
  8. Benevolence and accountability to a work ethic are not mutually exclusive (Matthew 25: 31-46; II Thess. 3:10-13).
  9. Love and withdrawal of fellowship are not mutually exclusive (II Thess. 3:5,6)
  10. Security in Christ and experiencing persecutions/trials are not mutually exclusive (I Peter 1:3-9).

Sister to Sister: Spiritual Hackers

UnknownFirst, let me remind you to send me your family holiday photos along with 50 words or less telling me why you love the shot. A funny picture, a sentimental or nostalgic picture, excited children or Christmas morning chaos. It’s the “mug shot contest” because the top five photo entries will win Digging Deep travel mugs filled with Christmas candy. You know you want that!

So send me your entries, along with name and address to byhcontest@gmail.com by December 14th.IMG_0784 (5)

Next, I’ve been thinking a lot about scam artists since last Thursday when an evil man or group of people somehow infected my computer, compromising my security and attempting unsuccessfully to extort money from the accounts connected to my laptop. I hope you never have to go through an afternoon like the one I put in trying to undo what the hackers were doing. It’s frustrating at best and the worst case scenario, of course, is, in some ways, irreparable. I’m thankful my experience was in the “frustrating” category. But as I thought about what this man was attempting, it occurred to me that certain of the ploys that are used by these scammers are very similar to those of men who attempt to deceive Christians by coming into faithful churches and drawing men away to “another gospel” (Gal.1:6,7).

First, the hacker planted an aggravating situation into my internet usage. Pop-ups prevented me from even seeing the things I needed to view that day. (That man was, in the words of Dr. Seuss, a “bad banana with a greasy black peel”.) Have you ever noticed that those who lead people away from faithful doctrine often begin by causing dissonance within a congregation? They like to criticize the leadership, planting doubts within the minds of people about men who are faithful and about the doctrines from God’s Word that they’ve understood for years. This “infection injection”  results in dissonance and doubt…the inability to see what was clear before the false teachers came in. Just as I became irritated with my computer last Thursday, people become discontent in congregations where the viruses of doubt and dissent are planted.

Next, everything about this hacker looked exactly as if he was legitimately from the Apple company. Even the representatives of the Apple company admitted that these Apple enemies (hackers) are getting better and better at masquerading as Apple technicians and it is extremely hard to keep customers protected from them. The message I received about my computer being infected and needing immediate attention looked as if it was legit. Jesus said that false prophets are wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15). They often seem to be some of the kindest, most dedicated people in your congregation. Jesus said false teachers know how to masquerade and deceive.

The next thing I noticed about the man who was trying to get me to “buy into” his offer to help me protect my at-risk information was that he seemed very smart; savvy about the product and the technology—way above my head. I was tempted to trust him because he surely sounded like he knew so much about how to solve my problem. We have to be careful about doctrines that seem “above our heads”. There are lots of very intelligent preachers and teachers who are sincerely and diligently searching the scriptures. But there are also those who are educated but are “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Tim. 3:7). Remember, the foundational principles of the gospel are simple enough for the common man. It was the common men who heard Jesus gladly (Mark 12:37).

This man then pushed me to change my method of protecting my computer. He pressured me to invest in his recommended method and insisted that, while I waited, bad things could be happening to my personal and banking information. He told me how reliable his system was and how many people had been “saved” from disaster by his plan of protection. He even told me I was tech savvy and smart enough to work my way through this problem and have a clean computer once again. False teachers are often pushy. They want to make their way into influential positions in congregations. They sometimes want you to think that the “smart” people are the ones who have come to “understand and know Jesus the way they do.”   They want to impress you with how change will protect the future of your congregation and, sometimes this “change” is nothing short of forsaking that which is real and genuine and authorized, for that which is accepted—even popular— among denominationalists, but unauthorized by the Lord.

Finally, I told this man who wanted my money that I’d just take my infected computer to the manufacturer—to the Apple store. “They can tell me what’s wrong with it.”  He did not like the fact that I wanted to go straight to the manufacturer…AT ALL…because he knew that was the place of truth. If you want to know something about a problem with a Macbook Pro, you go to tech support  at the Apple Store.

False teachers—those who are attempting to pull people away from sound doctrine– are often critical of a dependence on and searching out of the Scriptures. “You think it’s important to know book, chapter and verse….I think it’s important to just know Jesus.”    One man even told my husband that you do not put faith in your children by having them memorize verses. “You put faith in kids by telling them stories about family members who had good characters.” God is the manufacturer. He made you and me. He devised the scheme for our redemption. He paid the price for it . He owns the “patent” for salvation. We have a big problem and the Word of God has the answer. In fact, the Word—it’s books, chapters and verses—is the only possible way to know Jesus, our Lord. It is by hearing the word of God that we grow our faith (Romans 10:17). That word, when hidden in our hearts, is protection against the debilitating and damning infection of sin (Psalm 119:11). Don’t let a spiritual hacker have access  to your heart!

Sister to Sister: Do You Phub?

images-17A neologism, by definition, is a newly invented word and one of the newest terms emerging this week in English is “phubbing”. To phub (from two words: “phone and snub”) is to give attention to your phone when you should be paying attention to a significant other…say, maybe your husband. To “phub up” a relationship is to damage or destroy it due to ignoring important aspects like conversation while you scroll or communicate with others via that hand-held device.

We do this, don’t we? I know I am guilty of phubbing at times. A study at Baylor University recently revealed that phubbing is a significant cause of unhappiness in marriages and sometimes leads to bigger breaches of intimacy and to significant problems in relationships (http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/10/02/phubbing-ruining-relationships-study-says/.

As I was talking this weekend to women about treasuring the sisterhood, I first thought about this neologism in regard to our sisters. Do we sometimes get so “into” the superficial relationships with people we almost never see and hardly know that we neglect to capitalize on the times we could be spending with our local sisters? I don’t know, but it would be a shameif we let that happen. While it’s wonderful that technology has broadened our fellowship in some ways that make it possible to encourage sisters in other countries, it would be sad to be encouraging to sisters in distant places while hardly knowing those with whom we regularly worship. I want to be careful to treasure relationships with sisters with whom I share local activities and local evangelistic efforts.

But as I think further, the ultimate tragedy would be if a person phubbed God. Is that possible? Can a person spend inordinate amounts of time phone trolling, Facebook scrolling, skyping and chatting with “friends” while failing to communicate and develop a relationship with God?  I think so and I think many people do.  Are there practical steps I can take to be sure I don’t let devices subtly take the time and interest that I should be giving to God?  Can I even disrespect God by slighting my husband while communicating with others via phone? I’ve been thinking about this and here are a few things I want to incorporate into my personal habits to make sure that I never inadvertently give God (or His delegated authority in my life) the leftovers of my communication time.

  1. When God is talking to me (i.e I am reading my Bible or listening to teaching), I will attempt to have my phone silenced or at least ignore any calls that are not emergencies, no matter where I may be.
  2. When I am talking to God, I will not allow my phone to interrupt that prayer time.
  3. I will reserve time for study and prayer every day as a priority over time spent on devices.
  4. I will not look at my phone during mealtimes with my husband, who is the one I am to reverence (Eph. 5:33).
  5. I will not text others while Glenn is speaking to me.
  6. I will not be on Facebook when my husband prefers that I be doing something else with him.  This  would be next to impossible for some women I know who are very much addicted to Facebook  or Twitter or Instagram. It may prove to be harder for me than I think. It’s my challenge for the coming days. I don’t want to be a phubber! (It’s funny….The term is so new that “phubber” autocorrects to “chubbier”. I don’t really want to be that either!)